One of the most crucial parts of being a YouTuber is the process of editing videos. Unedited YouTube videos not only look unpolished, they may put viewers off and discourage people from tuning into your channel. Simple edits are easy to do and can really make your videos stand out. While many edits are carried out with stylistic choices in mind, those just starting out should focus on learning the basics.
There are a lot of editing software options available, from totally free to very expensive. YouTube even offers some editing capabilities right from your Video Manager page. What works for you will completely depend on personal preference. If you want an editing program that’s free and user friendly, go with something like Video Editor. If you want to add special effects and highly technical edits, you might think about splurging for Final Cut Pro (Mac users) or Adobe Premiere Pro.
We recommend trying free software to see if it meets your needs and to get a feel for editing in general before opting to buy expensive software. One thing’s for sure, you don’t need to buy the software that the pros are using when you’re just starting out. Not only can it be expensive, it’s often much more difficult to use.
Regardless of what type of video you’re recording, odds are you’ll end up with a lot of unnecessary footage. Keep the main idea of your video in mind and work on “trimming the fat,” aka anything that doesn’t enhance the video overall. For example, if you’re filming an unboxing video, you can cut out the footage of you struggling to open the box and then getting up to grab a boxcutter.
“When in doubt, cut it out,” should be your new catchphrase. It’s tough to make a video too short (while still including all the necessary clips) but it is very easy to make a video too long. As you edit your videos and watch them back, keep an eye out for anything you can trim down or even cut out completely. These days, the attention span of the average viewer is very short, so try to deliver your message quickly and make sure the viewer is always entertained.
Storytelling and Timeline Edits
It’s not always practical to film clips in sequential order and fortunately, footage can be rearranged easily during editing. Before you film, think about how you want your video to go and even draft a quick storyboard or write a script if possible. That way when it comes time to edit, you’ll be able to put your clips in logical order so the video flows nicely (filming will likely be easier too!).
Many viewers have eagle eyes so if a clip looks or feels out of order, they’ll notice. If you’re filming a makeup tutorial and the video suddenly cuts to your bare face when you had makeup on seconds before, it can feel jarring. If your video took months to prepare and you need to use older footage where you (or the weather, your home decor, etc.) look different, viewers will notice. During times when it makes sense to add in footage like this, it’s best to give the viewer a verbal heads up or add a bit of on-screen text to clear things up.
A transition is added between video clips for smoothness. The best transitions usually aren’t detected by your brain unless you are actively looking for them. It used to be all the rage to unironically load up a YouTube video with transitions that whirled and bounced and buzzed. These days, most people choose more simple transitions for everyday videos and leave the highly stylized transitions for specific types of videos. You can choose to have no transitions at all, but your video may end up choppy and difficult to watch as a result.
For best results, try putting in a few transitions that you think work well and take a little time away from your video. After a few hours or even a few days, watch your video with fresh eyes to see if the transitions seem natural. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for input as well.
Text and/or Subtitles
Adding text during the editing process is a great way to add helpful information you may have forgotten to say or show during filming. You can also use text stylistically, such as to make jokes or to echo words you’re speaking to really make them stand out. Just make sure your text is in a font and color that is easy to read and doesn’t obstruct important parts of the video.
Subtitles are becoming more popular and appreciated as the world works to become a more inclusive place. While YouTube offers the option to use auto-generated subtitles, they’re not always perfect. You can go into YouTube’s editing software and change the subtitles or add them from your own video editing software. Subtitles can easily take hours to input, even for a short video, but viewers will surely appreciate your efforts. If you speak multiple languages, add subtitles to increase the number of viewers who can enjoy your content. If not, subtitles for the language you’re speaking are still greatly helpful to hearing impaired viewers.
While an intro isn’t necessary, not including an end screen in your YouTube video is a wasted opportunity. An end screen allows you to link to other YouTube videos your viewers might enjoy, allowing them to click, sit back, and keep watching. You can manually select what videos you want to include, have YouTube automatically include your most recent videos, or have YouTube automatically select the most “relevant” videos (determined by keywords, descriptions, etc.).
You can have your YouTube end screen be anything from B-roll with music, a template you created in graphic design software, an animation of your character—anything! Be sure to add your social media info, such as your Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter usernames so that viewers can easily find your content on multiple platforms.
Though it might be hard in the beginning, try to have a consistent editing style so that viewers know what to expect when they come to your channel. Just like a niche, the way you edit your videos will attract certain audiences—keep them coming back for more by staying consistent. Of course you can change things as you evolve as a creator, but aim for the same intro and end screen, transitions and storytelling with a similar vibe, etc.
There are a lot of extra edits you can do to jazz up your videos. Remember that until you find your own style, it can be tricky to determine which extras will work for you and which you can leave out. For example, a straight-to-the-point tutorial may not require a lot of B-roll, while a storytelling or aesthetic video could really benefit from it. Here are some extras to think about adding to your videos either now or in the future.
Music can greatly affect (for better or for worse) your video overall. The trick is to find royalty-free music that matches the tone of the video and isn’t too loud. When in doubt, lower the volume. Viewers won’t always care if background music is too soft but if they can’t hear your voice, you might find yourself on the receiving end of some negative comments or dislikes. Again, remember to use royalty-free music or you risk having the entire video muted or worse, affected by a copyright strike and demonetized.
There are lots of situations where voice-overs are beneficial. For one, if the audio from your original recording gets corrupted, you might be able to save the footage by simply adding voice-over. If you’re engaged in a task (such as painting for an art tutorial) and want to focus, you can record your voice-over after you’ve finished filming. Some videos include a mix of both voice-over and audio recorded during the filming process. Just make sure you have a good microphone and adjust the volume of your voice as needed during the editing process.
Though less important than an end screen or outro, a quick introduction at the beginning of all of your YouTube videos can help build a consistent image or theme for your brand. Many YouTubers will have a quick animation featuring their logo or character and a little jingle or sound effect. Try checking out some of your favorite YouTubers to see what their intros are like. When in doubt, keep it shorter rather than longer—no one wants to sit through an intro that’s more than a few seconds.
Sound effects are extra edits that are often fun or silly but can easily become overwhelming or annoying if used too often. If you want to try out sound effects (remember, it’s okay to leave them out entirely), start with just one or two per video and see how it goes. Comedic timing is usually the most important factor for a good sound effect and it’s a skill that may come naturally to some more than others. Again, make sure your sound effect is well-placed and enhances the video in some way: don’t place sound effects just for the heck of it.
While A-roll is footage of the main subject, think of B-roll as a little something extra to decorate your videos with. B-roll is footage that doesn’t exactly “advance the storyline” but has a number of benefits. Well-chosen B-roll can enhance the tone or feeling of your video, help you transition from one “scene” to another, and in general, is just really nice to look at.
Some examples of B-roll would be flowers in a garden, people walking down a bustling street, or scanning the highly organized shelves in your wardrobe. A wellness enthusiast filming a video about how to reduce stress might include B-roll of flowers in a garden. A travel vlogger may show footage of a busy street from their visit to London. A stylist making a video on how to create a capsule wardrobe could show a clip of their finely organized shelves. As long as it enhances your video, the options for B-roll footage are endless.
Though sometimes images are necessary (for example, if you’re attempting to sew a historical garment and want to show references), other times they’re added for comedic purposes. Like sound effects, dropping a funny image or meme reference requires good timing and should be used sparingly (unless you have a specific style in mind). Remember that while most people enjoy memes, they often go out of fashion quickly. An old meme on a video with a topic that is still relevant or useful can cause it to age poorly.
It can be nice to speed up or slow down clips for logical or artistic reasons. Time-lapses of things like city traffic, clouds, or even plants are always fun to look at, so don’t be afraid to experiment with time-lapses if they make sense in your video. While time-lapses are created using the camera itself, slow motion effects are usually added in through editing software (though some phones have a slow motion option). Play around and see what works for your style.
As you become more familiar with editing, you will start to develop your own style. The creative opportunities that filming and editing offer can be wonderful artistic outlets. Some view editing as a tedious task, but try to see it as an opportunity to express yourself. The goal is to find your unique editing style and apply it to all of your videos for a cohesive look, but don’t forget to have fun!
Next up on YouTuber University, get more views to those edited videos with tips on growing your channel.